How important is it to meet a cat before adopting him?

Rescue cat looking for a new home advertised on Facebook
Rescue cat looking for a new home advertised on Facebook
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I use “him” to mean him or her. I can never write “it” because it feels wrong to me. OK, what is the big deal about meeting the cat you want to adopt before adopting?

This is a follow up to Elisa’s article on cat adoptions at a distance, meaning people adopting cats from photographs and descriptions and then someone ships the cat to them. This happens quite a lot with respect to purebred, pedigree cats but less so with random bred rescue cats. It appears to be happening more with the increased use of the internet.

Attitude of the prospective cat caretaker

A lot depends on the person who is looking to adopt a cat. Meeting a cat before adoption is less important if the person doing the adopting has an excellent attitude to cat caretaking and an excellent track record. If a person is adopting because she wants to help a vulnerable cat who has had a tough time the chances of the relationship being for the life of the cat is very good – if the person is switched on and good.

If, on the other hand, the person is a first time cat owner and fancies adopting a nice looking cat on the cheap and does the whole thing on the internet, the chances of success are reduced. The reason for the adoption would not be based on sound principles.

If this person visited her local cat shelter and got to know the cats, took her time and discovered by interacting with the cats whether she could make a connection then there would be an improved chance of success when she adopted. She may decide to not follow through. I think that it is better not to adopt a cat than adopt hastily and then decide to abandon the cat. A failure for both. After all, shelters select prospective adopters carefully. This can’t be done so well at a distance.

Meeting the cats can lead to a connection before adoption

The worry about selecting a cat on the internet is that the connection between cat and caretaker takes place after the person has adopted the cat. This is likely to happen but it depends on the person. However, there must be a higher risk of failure. The ideal is when a healthy cat comes to the person at a local shelter and a connection is formed there and then. Thereafter it progresses and becomes deeper.

Health Issues

The people in the know say we should check out the cats before adopting. One thing you check for is the outgoing, confident nature of the cat or kitten. You can do that by watching how he interacts with you. Also, you can check out basic health problems such as upper respiratory infections (URIs). These are commonplace.

You can’t tell at a distance from a photograph if the cat you think you adore is healthy and socialised.

  1. Are the eyes clear?
  2. Is the nose free of discharge and slightly moist?
  3. Are the ears clean looking
  4. Is the fur clean and glossy?
  5. Does he squirm in your hands or come to you and purr when he sits on your lap or does he purr contendly? You don’t know.

You won’t necessarily be able to check this things on the internet. It depends on how trustworthy the person advertising the cat is. Are they hiding something? Have they misrepresented the cat in the description? You can ask questions and if the person misrepresents the cat’s condition and character you could get your money back and return the cat. That won’t happen because it is not worth it. Where does that leave the cat and the relationship?

It is always better to check first hand when buying some expensive items. Cats are obviously not expensive items from a shop. They are more important than that. You have to be sure of what you are committing to and it is a 15+ year commitment if a kitten is being adopted.

What do internet photographs show?

The most obvious feature of a cat that an internet photo shows is the coat type and the facial features. These are appearance characteristics. That is only part of the story. Health and character are more important. At a distance you depend on the advertiser for that information. I say it is best to check and make your own judgments.

The upside of internet at-a-distance cat adoption

More people are reached on the internet. The audience is vastly increased. This should result in a lot more adoptions and bottom line that is the most important thing in the world of rescue cats.

There will be some failures, more failures than if the person had visited a local shelter and adopted there. This is not good but…overall the internet does benefit rescue cats, I sense. I don’t know of any research on this.

Focus on the wrong thing

There is a need in the world of cats to focus less on the appearance of cats and more on the character, health and the relationship formed between person and cat. Adopting over the internet tends to reinforce the wrong emphasis: cat appearance. Let’s be concerned about the inner cat. This is where relationships are formed.

The advertiser

The person advertising the cat should check out the prospective adopter. All good shelters do this. It cannot be done carefully enough at a distance. Cats Protection in the UK are very careful in selecting adopters.

If it saves lives do it

Adoption via the internet at a distance has defects but if it saves the lives of cats it is a success.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

9 thoughts on “How important is it to meet a cat before adopting him?”

  1. Super article. Covered all the points which should be done before adopting . Although adopting over the internet does save lives , as you stated , I do believe part of the reason some fail is they are not a good fit . Research is always needed before adopting . If you work long shifts and need to get a good nights sleep at night , then adopting a ; let’s say ; a pair of young kittens(because we wouldn’t want the other one to be lonely) would certainly NOT be a good plan! Kittens are clowns , adorable , lots of fun and playful . They also love to play AT NIGHT! So lots of rough and tumble will be going on when you are trying to sleep. Or let’s say , you adopt an older cat , you’re wanting a cuddle bug who will snuggle with you and be very loving , yet this older cat has no intentions of being such! Cats , like any other living creature have their own personalities, and sorry to say , cats can often be more stand-offish then some people I know. A meet and greet is always a better idea so you can see a lot of cats interacting together and get a feel for which one best suits you and your life style. I for one love the cat for it’s independent attitude and it’s “I rule this spot” approach! But however you decide to bring a cat into your life it’s a life time commitment and you should always consider that also.And get two,their small!

    • You make some good points Jan. Helmi Flick the famous cat photographer said you have to visit the cat before adopting. I agree that. However, life is changing. Internet social media is so big now and so much a part of people’s lives it cannot be ignored as a way of rehoming cats.

  2. As a rescuer of hard-to-home older or temperamental cats I often take on cats sight unseen. Colour and missing bits – no problem. Diabetes, hyperthyroid, bad teeth etc – no problem. As long as they can rub along with the other incumbents, it’s fine with me.

      • It was joked that when I had vacancies, the local shelter added a few years to the age of hard-to-home cats they wanted me to take. These days, local strays (not young ones either) seem to arrive as soon as they detect a vacancy. After checking for microchips and making sure they are on the “found” registers locally, they generally move in permanently. Younger strays get put on the rehoming list unless they have iffy temperaments.

        As we used to say here – “cats just happen”.

  3. If i had to go to a shelter to find a cat, I’d be in big trouble. I would bring them all home! The good, the bad and the ugly. It is nice to have a beautiful cat. I would say two of mine are beautiful in the eyes of most, the other two are beautiful to me. I am sure there are genuine cat loving people who might be looking for a particular look in a cat. But seriously, if having a cat is the objective there are few reasons to get a cat from far distances. There are so many in every community looking for a loving home. I agree if the looks is the only criteria, the match probably won’t work! I am convinced that I can make a good relationship with any cat. Can anyone? I don’t think so. The idea of shipping cats is wonky to me, but I’m sure in the Cat Fancy world it is necessary for pedigree purposes.

    I haven’t read comments on both articles, maybe this has been said already.

    • I’m like Dorothy – I’d bring ’em all home if I went to the shelter now 🙂

      I actually believe I could adopt any cat without meeting them first because I don’t have any human expectations of them. I’d be very willing to adopt a cat I hadn’t met. Infact I may have a little black cross eye’d cat coming my way from under a dumpster in the freezing cold. I’ve offered to pay for the vet checkup and neutering and for her to get her first vaccinations. If she comes I’ll be very happy to get to know her.

      Having said that Red chose me. This is wonderful when it happens. He melted my heart when he first climbed up on my knee as a better spot to grab at the wand/string toy from. I pretended to ignore him but fell in love with him as he kept doing it more and more. He liked me – so wonderful.

      • You are the classic example of the excellent cat caretaker who would make a success from any type of adoption process. Cats need more people like you. Sadly a lot of cat owners don’t have that pure sense of integrity and genuine care towards domestic cats. These are the people who, perhaps, should adopt cats in the safer way – in person, face to face.


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